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Agricultural economist Ken Robinson dies at age 89

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John Carberry

Kenneth L. Robinson, the L.H. Bailey Professor Emeritus of Applied Economics and Management, who taught and conducted research on farm and food policy, agricultural prices and the economic outlook at Cornell for 36 years, died recently at age 89.

Born in Olympia, Wash., July 2, 1921, Robinson grew up on a farm and earned his bachelor's degree at Oregon State College. After three years in the Army, 1942-45, and various jobs in the fruit industry, he came to Cornell and earned an M.S. (1947) in agricultural economics, studying spraying efficiency on New York fruit farms and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard (1952) and shortly thereafter joined the Department of Agricultural Economics at Cornell as an assistant professor.

He spent the next 36 years teaching and giving talks throughout the state. He took leaves from Cornell to serve as a Fulbright lecturer in Australia, a visiting lecturer at University of California-Berkeley and a visiting economist at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria.

Other assignments included a summer in Japan and lecturing in Portugal and various African countries while based in Nigeria. Robinson was also a member of the committee that examined the doctoral research of Lee Teng-hui, a former president of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

In recognition of his teaching, one of his undergraduate advisees, John Dyson, endowed a professorship in Robinson's honor. The co-author of a widely used textbook on agricultural prices, "Agricultural Product Prices" (its fourth edition was published in 2003), Robinson retired from Cornell as professor emeritus in 1987.

Following retirement, he and his wife traveled, and his volunteer activities included tax counseling for senior citizens and low-income households and sorting books for the Friends of the Library; he was made a life member of the Friends in 2008.

He is survived by his wife, Jean Robinson, professor emerita of policy analysis and management, two sons and two grandsons. Donations in lieu of flowers are requested to be made to Cornell to be added to the Kenneth L. and Jean R. Robinson Scholarship Fund benefiting students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


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